Vanderpump Rules has seen plenty of stars employed at Lisa Vanderpump’s restaurants featured on the show. Among them was Billie Lee, the first openly trans hostess at Vanderpump’s SUR restaurant. Lee was a recurring guest on seasons 6 and 7 of the show before announcing her departure in July 2019. Since then, she’s worked to establish herself outside of the show.
Billie Lee was a regular fixture on ‘Vanderpump Rules’
Lee was introduced to Pump Rules fans during season 6 of the show where she gave a speech during SUR’s annual Pride celebration. She appeared in a total of 10 episodes and worked as a hostess at the popular West Hollywood restaurant.
In a July 2019 blog post announcing her departure from the show, she reflected on her time on VPR and her relationships with its stars, initially calling Lisa Vanderpump her “fairy godmother.”
“During my time at SUR, I met some of the most wonderful people, a few in particular that I now call family,” she said. “They saw me in a way I never saw myself — they saw beauty, light and love. They saw a powerful activist who was unstoppable. These beautiful souls put a mirror in front of me, they showed me how far I’ve come and how far I can go.”
Why Billie Lee left ‘Vanderpump Rules’
It wasn’t always the best landscape at SUR, however. She went on to describe the toxic environment that led her to leaving.
“With good always comes evil,” she stated plainly. “Some of my coworkers were threatened by my differences, going out of their way to exclude me, one demanding I be fired from the show because he didn’t feel comfortable working with me. His exact words were, ‘I’m not gonna lose all I have worked hard for for something stupid I may say or do to offend her. Are we all supposed to tip-toe around her because she’s trans?’”
“The bullying on and off camera brought my deep insecurities to the surface, this dark black mirror held up high for everyone in public to see and to judge. The reflection of fear and anger led me back to depression and suicidal thoughts,” she continued. “I honestly thought I was finished with this type of bullying after high school and college but once again I found myself 34, depressed, and fantasizing about taking my own life.”
“Like any other time I’ve been bullied or rejected I started journaling, and I attached myself to anything and everything positive that would pull me out of this dark funk,” she added. “During this time, I realized that SUR was no longer right for me! I had many people try to convince me to stay. ‘Billie, do another year! You are stronger than this.’ But honestly, I couldn’t do another year and I wasn’t strong enough.”
Billie Lee said she was ‘gaslighted’ by SUR staff
While her blog post made it seem as though she left Vanderpump Rules willingly, Lee revealed in a June 2020 episode of the I Feel Tried podcast that she was actually fired.
“I was actually dismissed,” she said. “I publicly came out and said that I left … but what happened was toward the end of the seventh season, I was told that Jax [Taylor] and them did not want to film with me.”
“During my reunion, I publicly posted that there was no minority on stage with me, none of my cast members were of color or LGBTQ,” she explained. “For me to be silenced and talked over and gaslighted by Lisa was just really, really sad.”
“I tried to publicly talk about it but I was silenced,” she continued. “Lisa personally called me and said that, you know, she made my career and she could easily take it away.”
Still, she was grateful to have had the support of her friends, Tom Sandoval and Ariana Madix. “Tom and Ariana have literally been like family to me,” she told Page Six in June 2020. “Tom has helped me in ways. He buys me things. Even during the quarantine, he would be like, ‘I have toilet paper, I have this. Come over. I’ll get you whatever you need.’”
Billie Lee’s ventures outside of ‘Vanderpump Rules’
Since her time on Vanderpump Rules, Lee has stayed away from the world of TV.
Instead, the activist and former TV star has been delving into the world of comedy, performing stand-up at venues in the Los Angeles area.